Beets are treasures of nutrition, not to mention absolutely delicious. And they are natural companions to hard boiled eggs, something we seem to have a lot of right now. Beets come in gold, red, white and even candy-striped. The best part is that if you get them really fresh, you get a bonus vegetable of beet greens. The greens taste just like Swiss chard, which is actually a non-bulbing beet. Beets are traditionally roasted, but they are also delicious in a raw shredded salad.
Deep red beets are highest in nutrition, but golden and candy beets are still quite good for you. And, the redder the beet, the more it will stain your hands and any food you put it with. Candy striped, also called Italian Chioggia beets, are the sweetest, and will stay tender the longest in the garden.
Beets are best stored in the refrigerator, where they’ll last for several weeks. If you have the luck of a root cellar, keep them in a cool spot in damp sand through the winter. If you choose to harvest greens while they are still growing, only use about a third of the greens of any one beet at a time.
How to roast beets
Roasting beets gives them a sweetness that you don’t get by boiling. To roast beets, trim off the greens and set aside for another dish. Wash and put them in a baking pan with a few tablespoons of water and cover tightly with foil. Roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. They are done when a fork easily pierces. Alternatively, they will take about half an hour to cook in a pressure cooker. Cool and then rub off the skins.
MARINATED BEET SALAD
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine or balsamic vinegar, depending on your taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 large hard-cooked egg
1/2 tablespoon parsley, chopped finely (optional)
Frisee or chicory leaves for garnish
Roast beets as directed above and cool. Peel; cut into 1/2-inch chunks, grate or spiralize.
Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Toss beets with dressing and let stand 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Mix in onion. Finely chop eggs and mix with parsley. Place beet salad on serving plate and sprinkle with frisee. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes 2 generous servings.
CREAMY BEETS WITH GREENS
3 or 4 beets, any type
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon sour cream or plain yogurt
Trim greens from beets and reserve. Roast beets as directed above; peel and dice.
Rinse and roughly chop the greens. Add garlic to olive oil in a saute and saute briefly (about a minute) over medium heat. Add beet greens and toss to coat with oil. Saute about 2 to 3 minutes until wilted to your taste. Add balsamic vinegar, sugar and red pepper. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream or yogurt. Mix in the diced beets and serve.
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.